Local Travel

So, I like actually live in California, so let’s ditch all this tourist crap and get to the good stuff.

The Passport Experience

Passport Day.  I have been waiting for this for two years.  Every time I’ve tried to attend, something has stood in my way.  Funds.  Work….Work.  But behold!  Finally, I have Saturdays off!  So on November 16th, I trekked my way across the Santa Cruz Mountains in pursuit of excellent wines!

The nicest thing about the Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries Passport is that you don’t have to use it on Passport Day.  It is good for two years at any of the wineries included, any day that they are open.  Ah, but that is the tricky bit:  many are open only once a month, some only on Passport Day.  Thus, I tried to prioritize our Passport schedule based on winery availability, visiting those that are rarely open to the public on Passport Day and saving the others for a normal day.

We began our trek at Dancing Creek Winery, immediately breaking the “only visit wineries that are rarely open” rule.  But here’s why:  this location hosted two other, smaller wineries so that our first stop encompassed three whole wine tastings!  Don’t worry, we ate a large breakfast.

Stepping out of the car was like stepping into a fairy tale.  The sun shone brightly through the tress, alighting on scenic benches and patches of forest floor.  The trees rose majestically around us, evoking a sense of eternity in peace.

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It was the kind of place to make you forget about the wine all together and just enjoy the beautific surroundings.

Of course, we didn’t.  We were here for wine!  Narry a beautiful tree could deter our determination!

Let us just say that Dancing Creek Winery’s offerings did not match its surroundings though it did exceed its fellow winery, Villa Del Monte.  Both wineries produced earthy, bold reds that really just did nothing for me.  Granted, that is exactly the kind of wine in which I find the least pleasure.  There were a few exceptions:  Villa Del Monte’s Cabernet Sauvignon was surprisingly palatable for one who avoids the varietal, and Dancing Creek’s late harvest Zinfandel, Late for the Dance, turned out to be my only purchase for the day.  On the whole however, the wine was hardly noteworthy.  Which is really too bad considering its grounds.

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Dancing Creek’s Wines

But a third winery had set up on the grounds just as we were about to leave, and Clos Tita turned out to be one of the day’s gems.  A new winery, it was only serving three wines and wasn’t even in our passport book, but god was it worth the stop!  Each wine was highly flavorful and completely unique.  The Pinot Noir Cuvee was fruity but not sweet with perfectly balanced flavor.  Yet their Estate Pinot Noir was the real find:  one of the most interesting wines I have ever experienced.  “Pepper” is a word often used to describe bold reds, but it is usually not a literal description, more an indication of spice.  In this wine, you could actually taste pepper.  At the same time, they balanced it with an earthiness, creating perhaps the most unique wine I have ever tasted.

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Once we had finished marveling over Clos Tita, the time came to move on.  The owner of Dancing Creek suggested we head down the road to Bruzzone, and I am very glad we followed her advice because their Chardonnay was exquisite.   Though I prefer whites, I generally do not love Chardonnays.  As I have made my way across the Santa Cruz Mountains, it has become very clear to me that the varietal just isn’t my thing.  I don’t know what exactly Bruzzone does to their Chardonnay, but I really wish everyone else would follow their example.  Their 2010 Estate Chardonnay was so light it was almost carbonated, and while I could not taste the oak, the wine retained a depth of flavor that was just delightful.  Plus, they had food!  And by that time, we were starting to need it.

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By the time we got to Nicholson Vineyards, it was definitely time for lunch.  It may perhaps have been smarter to eat at the beginning  of our time there instead of the end, but my cohorts were determined to get in another tasting before breaking.  I did at least get to sample some of Nicholson’s yummy cheeses before we began.

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Nicholson Vineyards

I must say that after the 20+ wines we had had so far, my taste buds were beginning to complain about overuse, so I can’t say that I was able to fully experience any of the wines from this point on.  That said, most of Nicholson’s wines seemed to me to be pretty standard to the area with the exception of their Old Vine Zinfandel.  They must know they were on to something with this Zin because it is a limited release, and it was a strain not to buy a bottle for this fruity, flavorful wine.

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Instead, we brought our tastings to a picnic table and feasted on cheese, bread, fruit, and cookies in classic wine-tasting fashion.  Nicholson was not as idyllic as Dancing Creek, but surrounded by vines and trees with the sun basking on the walls, it was still a nice place for lunch and a much needed palate cleanser.

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Despite the rest, as we arrived at Martin Ranch, I was done.  I had exceeded my tasting capacity for the day, and I really didn’t want any more.  All my taste buds wanted was water.  This may, just possibly, have contributed to how much I did not care for the wines at Martin Ranch.  Though to be perfectly honest, I doubt I would have enjoyed them anyway.

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Apart from Having Unexciting Wine, Martin Ranch Was Crowded!

Most of the wines they were tasting were pretty standard reds, and by that time, I had had so many of them that all I wanted to taste were the whites.  The really frustrating thing was that Martin Ranch, unlike most Santa Cruz Mountain wineries, actually had whites.  A variety of them even!  But they wouldn’t let me taste them which made me like them even less.  I finally convinced one of the pourers to open a Sauvignon Blanc for me, and it was like a breath of fresh air.  It was light and crisp, a little grassy flavor, but certainly a relief after so many reds.

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The Grounds Were Spacious Though

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And Vast

As we walked away from Martin Ranch, there was still time to visit one more winery, and one of the ones I was most interested in was just around the corner.  But by this time, we were all pretty beat.  There was talk of quitting.  Dare we put our livers through any more trauma today?

Dare we did.  And it was so worth it.

Fernwood was not as flashy as most of the other wineries we visited.  There were no spacious picnic grounds, no vines climbing sun-drenched walls, no sunlight peaking through redwoods.  It was just a metal storeroom in the middle of nowhere.  We drove past it on our first try because it looked so little like a tasting room.

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Fernwood Cellars

But in my experience, the simplest of tasting rooms can bring forth the tastiest wines.  This was certainly the case for Fernwood.

Like I said, I like whites, and my favorite varietal is the Riesling.  Sweet yet light, it complements my taste buds more than any other wine.

Fernwood had more than just a Riesling, it had two!  A dry and a late harvest!  Generally, late harvest whites are a little too sweet for me, but this one was so smooth and sweet without overdoing it.  It was fabulous.  The reds were good too, particularly the Sidecut, a Syrah and Zinfandel blend with a smooth flavor and nicely balanced tannins.  My friend bought an entire case of it.

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We were lucky we persevered and tried Fernwood because it was one of the best wineries of the day!  Proof that you shouldn’t judge a winery by its cover and a fantastic end to our tasting.

Because after that our bodies really were done for the day, we trekked back to Santa Cruz for some Thai food, some chocolate, and lots and lots of water.

I enjoyed the passport experience.  We got to try A LOT  of wine, but the wineries were spread out enough that no one experienced alcohol poisoning.  No one got drunk that day.  Our driver didn’t even need to take a break.  It worked out rather nicely.

It would be helpful if the region had a little more variety, but each winery had at least one wine that was in some way unique, and there were several places we hope to visit again.  In the meantime, I will look forward to using our passports at all of the wineries that are open everyday!

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Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery Defines Unexpectedly Intriguing

I was not expecting much from Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery.  One look at their website was enough to dissuade me from hoping their wine would be any good.  When you say outright that you never dreamed of owning a winery and fell into the wine business as a fluke, I am not going to trip over myself for a taste of your vintage.  Also–and I know this isn’t fair as it has absolutely nothing to do with their wine-making abilities and is purely a pet peeve of mine as a reader–the fact that their website is riddled with grammatical errors and over-used, sappy phrases like “this wonderful thing called life” did not exactly fill me with confidence.  If nothing else, they didn’t care enough about presentation to proofread…or hire someone to proofread.  The experience was not encouraging.

There were two reasons I decided to stop by (well, three if you include we were nearby and felt like it).  One was the name (my husband is a big Lord of the Rings fan), and the other was this:

 

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Even though the house is a private residence and thus inaccessible to gawkers like me, how can you not want to see it? We were even more impressed when we got there and saw the grounds:

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I want their pool.  I want it so bad.

This place is gorgeous.  It perfectly blends fanciful, fairy tale-like gardens with a sense of modernity.  Everything is clean, well-kept, and new but also looks like an updated version of Marie Antoinette’s estate at Versailles.  Complete with its own pond, footpaths, tiny bridges, and arches, this would be an amazing place to get married!

For comparison, take a gander at Marie Antoinette’s actual estate:

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A Footpath at Marie Antoinette’s Estate

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Hardly Twins, but Similar Feel, No?

Both beautiful, fanciful places, but the shire has the ever-attractive addition of twenty-first century plumbing.

When we did our tasting, we were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine.  You can tell the vineyard is new.  Something about the flavor just screams at me to wait a couple of years (why yes, flavors do scream time periods at me.  What’s it to you?), but we still enjoyed the wines.  My favorite was probably the Red Table Wine, almost certainly because of its high percentage of Cabernet Franc, but Daniel preferred the Syrah.  Most of the reds were a bit more tannin-filled than I would have liked, but the flavors were good, and I feel the vineyard is brimming with potential.  I do so wish I had been able to try the Cab Franc, but really, they probably saved me from buying yet another bottle of wine we do not need.

In its pleasantly surprising fashion, Castillo’s Hillside Shire is totally worth a visit.  Mostly, I would go for a nice place to sit and sip wine, but at least you don’t have to bring your own.

 

Categories: Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Guglielmo’s Bottle Your Own Wine: Not Even Worth $5

Until recently, I worked every Saturday.  This creates a whole host of problems whilst trying to have a life.  Oh the number of parties I could not attend or was forced to be horribly late to.  It definitely takes a toll on your social life.  And your wine-snob development!  I couldn’t go to passport or really any other daytime wine events.

However, for the last couple of months, I have been working Sundays instead, and this has opened up a whole new world of wine events!  Guglielmo‘s Bottle Your Own Wine day was one that I had wanted to try for a long time but could never make with my previous work schedule.  Last weekend, I finally was able to attend.

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It was so not worth the wait.

And wait we did.  I knew this event was popular, but in my naivety, I did not expect to wait very long.  Fifteen minutes, maybe half-an-hour was the most I expected.  If I had known I was facing an hour-and-a-half long line, I would never have gone.

Unlike most of their patrons, I was in it for the experience, not the $5 wine.  I thought it would be cool to fill my own wine bottle and slap my own label on it, watching as it was corked.  The whole wine-making process is highly intriguing to me, and seeing a glimpse of how it all works attracted me to this event.

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Wine Filler

I never expected the wine to be good.  I assumed, correctly I think, that the wine we would be bottling was the leftover remnants of whatever the wine-makers didn’t want to bottle.  How else could it be so cheap?  And after trying it, I feel I can confirm my original assessment.  It’s perfectly fine for $5 wine, and while I admit that reds are not my favorites, especially from this particular winery, I do not think this bottle is worth much more.

That in mind, I was not expecting the mad rush of people that we faced upon entering Guglielmo.  The line would have moved pretty swiftly if the majority of patrons had not come bearing cases of empty bottles.  Perhaps I was naive, but it never occurred to me that people would show up wanting three cases of this swill, yet most of the people in line bore at least six bottles and often more.

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I think the label supports my theory that this is wine they just want to get rid of. Why else would they label it “table wine” and write in the lot number?

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The Fruits of Our Labor(ious Waiting)

Needless to say, I will not be attending again.  Maybe if the wine was better, I’d wait for it, but it’s really not that great, and once was more than enough to take in the experience.

Hopefully, passport day in a couple of weeks will be a better use of my newfound Saturday freedom.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for the Ultimate Bay Area Pumpkin Patch? Look to Uesugi Farms.

When you think of Northern California, there are some pretty distinct images that may come to mind:  the Golden Gate Bridge, Napa Wineries, Canary Row, San Francisco.  However, the vast majority of people would never imagine a farm.  And yet large swathes of the greater Bay Area are given to farmland.  Fresh, organic produce is a “thing” up here for a reason, even if we forget how close it is most of the time.  Today, I stopped by a genuine, classic farm that is one of the few that would be at home in the Midwest:  Uesugi Farm’s Pumpkin Patch.

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Far more than the average corner lot covered with straw and pumpkins, Uesugi Farm is a one-stop shop for all of your family-friendly Halloween needs, complete with decorations, corn mazes, hay rides, even a pumpkin chucker…and of course, lots of pumpkins.

The Winners for Largest Pumpkins

The Winners for Largest Pumpkins

The attractions were actually quite good.  The pumpkin chucker resembled a massive canon and seemed to have the power of one.  It claims to send the pumpkins to their doom at over 90 miles-per-hour, and I don’t doubt them.  Those pumpkin grenades were lethal.  Needless to say, their line was one of the longest on the farm.

The corn maze was quite impressive as well.  Two acres in size, it actually took us at least 20 minutes to get through even with our trivia guide.  We thought it was pretty clever that you could choose trivia on different subjects to point you through the maze, even if it didn’t actually help navigate that much.

Traversing the Corn Maze

Traversing the Corn Maze

However, my favorite part of the pumpkin patch was the pumpkins themselves.  Most commercialized pumpkin patches do pumpkin sales as more of a side business, and they are inevitably over-priced.  Not here.  The selection was vast, and the prices were very reasonable even before you take into account their 2-for-1 deal on all normal pumpkins.  It was almost worth the gas out there to save (at least) $13 on our 2 large and beautiful pumpkins.

Our Pumpkins

Our Pumpkins

When I was a kid, I loved our pumpkin patch.  Though in the midst of the Southern California suburbs, it had lots of activities, great pumpkins, and a truly authentic feel.  Although it has since turned into a Walgreens, I think of it often when October roles around and often find myself looking for another like it.  Uesugi Farm gave me hope that my kids may yet build memories as fond as I have of my pumpkin patch.

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Categories: Bay Area, Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Northern California | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aqui: Great for Fusion Mexican or a Cheap Buzz

The Bay Area is expensive.  We all know and loathe this, but it is a fact of life.  Everything is more expensive here, but perhaps nothing tops the overpriced list quite like drinks.

Based on personal experience, I’d say paying $8 – $10 for a cocktail is average around these parts, and that gets expensive really fast.  That is why I find Aqui so exciting.  Paying $6.50 for a margarita swirl is a steal around here.  And this is not one of those mini cocktails that you finish in three sips.  These drinks really are industrial strength; if I am going to drive, I cannot have even one.  Yet even with the copious amounts of alcohol, they are super tasty with lots of fruity goodness.

The food is less cheap but still reasonable and delicious.  Aqui calls itself Cal-Mex cuisine, but it is really Mexican fusion in every possible sense.  I’ve had Indian-inspired dishes (which were fabulous!), Thai burritos, and flautas served with barbeque sauce.  Some things work better than others, but on the whole, the mixes truly evoke the best of both worlds.  Being a guacamole connoisseur, I cannot visit without getting the Avocado Dip which answers the age old question, “Salsa or guacamole,” with a resounding “Both!”  The only thing lacking in the food area is a dearth of chips.  Despite having a lovely salsa bar, they want you to actually pay for chips.  I’ve talked my way into getting a small bowl a few times, but I wouldn’t count on that.

As for ambience, Aqui is a “pay when you order then find a table” kind of restaurant.  It still has a sit-down feel, but it can get really crowded, especially the one in Campbell.  You may have to wait for a table before you order, and since there are no hosts, you end up fighting for one yourself.  It’s annoying.  However, if you do not go during peak hours, you should be fine, and they do have a bar if you just want a drink and don’t want to wait for it.

Aqui is a great casual dining spot whether you want to get drunk on the cheap or try a new kind of Mexican food.  Just remember to be responsible with your drinks.  They really do pack quite a punch!

UPDATE:  Of course, once I decide to write about their super cheap drinks, Aqui decides to raise their prices. Even so, $8 for what you get in these swirls is really reasonable for the alcohol content and delicious flavor.

Categories: Bay Area, Food, Local Travel, Northern California, Restaurants, San Jose | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patxi’s: The Ultimate Californian Chicago-Style Pizza

I am not a big fan of deep dish pizza.  Give me an ultra-thin crust California-style pizza any day, and I will be super happy, but deep dish is generally a bit much for me.

Naturally, my husband is from Chicago and thus deep dish is ingrained in his DNA.  Chicagoans generally spurn all Chicago-style pizza that is not made in their hometown, and the search for good deep dish in California can be grueling.  Fortunately, Patxi’s Pizza is there to help.

Daniel assesses that Patxi’s Pizza is likely the most authentic Chicago-style pizza he has had in California.  I am inclined to agree.  We love Zachary’s in Berkeley, but it’s a lighter deep dish that isn’t really Chicago-style.  Chicago likes its pizza to be extra filling in every sense of the word.  Patxi’s definitely fulfills that requirement–I was done after one slice, classic Chicago-style–but doesn’t make you want to split your stomach open after, a quality found in only the best Chicago pizzerias.

Not My Best Camerawork, but the Pizza Was Tasty

Not My Best Camerawork, but the Pizza Was Tasty

At the same time, the ingredients in Patxi’s pizzas feel really fresh which keeps the slice from seeming so heavy you won’t be able to eat again for a week.  The peppers and onions in our pizza were cooked but maintained just the right amount of crunchiness.  Both of us were impressed by the sauce.  Sweet and savory at once, the unique flavor had a surprising yet pleasant tanginess that made the pizza interesting without overdoing it.  The crust was crispy and clearly very bad for you.  Doesn’t get more authentic than that.

Patxi's Has a Rather Stark, Modern Atmosphere

Patxi’s Has a Rather Stark, Modern Atmosphere

Despite my anti-deep dish persuasion, I enjoyed our pizza.  Having those crispy veggies and that tangy sauce made the pizza a bit lighter and thus a bit more manageable for me.  However, it still rang true to the deep dish name which is important for my husband, and I liked that too.  Honestly, I liked it better than most pizzas I’ve had in Chicago.

So if you want an authentic Chicago-style pizza experience, Patxi’s is the place for you.  And if you’re from Chicago, I’d love to get your opinion.

Categories: Bay Area, Food, Northern California, Restaurants, San Jose | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House on a Perfectly Spooky Rainy Day

The Winchester Mystery House on a Perfectly Spooky Rainy Day

Despite living very close to the Winchester Mystery House, San Jose’s only real tourist attraction and the most haunted place in California according to many, I had not been since we moved here until today. This is greatly owing to the fact that I visited while in college and found the experience lacking.  Still, it just didn’t seem right to leave this nearby landmark unexplored during our residency.

My first piece of advice while visiting is not to bring your 3-month-old.  Those pesky spirits were not good to little Zoe, and my poor friend had to duck into many a room to comfort her as we went along.

My second word of guidance is to just give into the cost.  Coupons are hard to find (at least coupons worth bothering with), and there really is no denying that the Winchester House is overpriced.  It’s either worth it to you or it’s not.

If you’re on the fence, it’s probably not worth it.  The house is cool, but the cost is pretty exorbitant for what you get.

However, if this is a place you want to see, it is pretty cool.  Speaking as one who loves all things supernatural, I could have done with more history of the hauntings associated with this house, but even though the tour concentrates more on the house and Mrs. Winchester, it’s pretty creepy.  I am thoroughly convinced that if I had gotten lost from the tour, I would not have been able to escape without walking out a door to nowhere.

Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester, one of the makers of the Winchester rifle, when she started building the house.  Despite her vast piles of money, her life was not a happy one.  Her only child died in infancy, and she was widowed long before her own death, cursed to spend the rest of her days alone.  After losing her daughter and husband, she consulted a psychic about her misfortunes and was told she was troubled by the spirits of the many, many people killed by the Winchester rifle.  The psychic told her to build a house that would never be finished, and thus began the Winchester Mansion.

Meant to confuse and appease spirits at once, the house was under construction from its beginnings until Mrs. Winchester died in 1922.  She made the plans for its construction herself and was very involved in the building process.  The result is an unfinished house with staircases that lead nowhere, doors that open onto twelve foot drops, staircases made for hobbits (small ones), and a labyrinthine series of passages that I imagine confused the hell out of her servants.

Entering the Winchester House is like stepping into an old Victorian house that went through World War II.  Since it is unfinished, many a room looks…wrong.  The house is so ornate, but the unfinished rooms show piping or the interior of the wall, almost like the world’s tiniest warehouse.  Juxtapose that with the gorgeous ballrooms, fireplaces, and stained glass windows that could easily be found in a European mansion, and you really lose a sense of where you are.  The house really is a maze too.  Some rooms have four exits but only one entrance, some closets open onto walls while others have secret doors to other rooms, and some doors have no purpose whatsoever.  Even paying double the going rate, I’m surprised Mrs. Winchester was able to keep the house staffed.

Mrs. Winchester Was a Fan of Stained Glass Windows

 Outside, the house is much more normal.  It’s huge, and it’s very tasteful.  The gardens are well groomed and filled with roses and statues.  You would never know how crazy the house is inside just by looking at it.

Despite the Weird House, the Grounds Are Quite Nice

I’m glad I went on this tour.  I still think it’s overpriced, but it is an interesting bit of history that you just won’t get anywhere else.  It’s also an amazing look at what endless amounts of money can do for you, especially if you are an eccentric old lady.  Few places on the west coast offer more history or such a refined abode.  It is one of the rare quirks that makes San Jose interesting.

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Categories: Bay Area, Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Northern California, San Jose | 2 Comments

Time to Stomp on the Grapes

There is no time quite like fall at a winery.  The grapes are ripe and being harvested.  New wines are revealed.  All around you, the leaves are changing in a display worthy of a state with actual seasons.

Fall is a great time to settle down with a nice cup of red and start preparing for winter.  It is also a great time to check out winery events!

If you have money to spare, and you are looking for a fall winery party, I would check out V. Sattui’s Crush Party.  Alas, I do not have money to spare, so I cannot go nor have I been in the past, but it looks like a lot of fun.  They take you through the wine production process with a good, old-fashioned grape crushing…with your bare feet.  There’s really nothing quite like people telling you it’s OK to squish a giant vat of grapes by stomping on them.

Watch and tell me this doesn’t look like a ton of fun:

Fall also means passport days are upon us!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is winery passport days, this is the time when you can try any winery you choose for a flat rate.  Wineries that generally do not do tastings are open and all sorts of special stuff can be found like barrel tastings and food pairings and vineyard tours and unique wines not generally available to the public.  Passports are split up by region, so take a look at where your favorite wineries are and mark your calendars!

Around these parts, we have…

Santa Clara Valley                        October 5 – 6                        $30
Santa Cruz Mountains                  November 16                        $45
Napa and Sonoma also have a continual passport deal.  For details, see sonomapassport.com and napavalleypassport.com.

Harvest Festivals abound this time of year as well in all parts of wine country.  The big wineries all have their own, but check out these to see a bunch of wineries at once:

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair encompasses three days worth of wine tastings from over 150 wineries, complete with food, demonstrations, seminars, and a FREE grape stomping competition.

If you’re looking for something a little more wine-centric, Reserve Sonoma Valley offers special peeks at wineries generally closed to the public along with food pairings and winery tours.

Of course, there are tons more harvest and fall events all across Northern California, so be sure to check with favorite vineyards for their festivals.  Which fall wine events are you favorites?

Categories: Bay Area, Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Napa, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sabieng Thai Cuisine: Go, Go Now, and Be Happy

Never have I had such good Thai food in such a nice setting as at Sabieng.  This pleasant sit-down restaurant has amazing food at almost unbelievable prices.

Everything we tried was exceptional.  The curries are abundantly flavorful with a smooth yet hearty texture.  Your meal comes with a coconut milk soup which is surprisingly awesome.  Almost like a curry, you can taste the coconut milk.  It is spiced in a way I would not expect to be delicious, but it really is.  Dessert was fantastic too.  We had fried bananas with coconut ice cream, and the combination was perfect.  We were fighting for the last bite.

Panang Curry
source

With such a high food quality, you would expect this place to be expensive.  If not that, you would think it would at least be on par with the average Thai food restaurant.  But it’s not.  It’s cheaper.  You will mostly likely pay $9 for dinner, and their lunch specials are fantastic.  $6.50 will get you any entree plus soup, and these meals are still big.  You will undoubtedly be full when you’re done.  Even drinks and desserts are pretty cheap.  With friend bananas and ice cream at a mere $4, you should definitely save room.  I don’t know how they do it.  Honestly, I’m a little freaked out that they can.  Where are they sacrificing?  It doesn’t seem to be in the quality of the food.

Nor is it the atmosphere.  While the ambience is not as exceptional as everything else about Sabieng, it is still a very pleasant place to sit and eat.  The tables and chairs are comfortable, and the restaurant is decorated by statues and pictures.  You definitely get a nice dining experience.

I am not sure how this restaurant is able to combine spectacular food, pleasant atmosphere, and such low prices, but I’m not going to question it.  Next time you’re in Santa Cruz, I would definitely recommend stopping by.  And then go to Donnelly Chocolates down the street for second dessert.

Categories: Food, Local Travel, Northern California, Restaurants, Santa Cruz | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Storrs Winery: Pleasantly Surprising in Every Way

Whilst in Santa Cruz, the husband suggested we do some wine tasting.  You can perhaps imagine my reaction.  It was somewhere in the vicinity of “OK!”  And so I perused my Santa Cruz Mountains wine guide for a promising-looking tasting room and came upon Storrs.

Storrs is one of those rare local wineries whose products I have seen in abundance in local stores.  In fact, they have their own little section in the World Market next to my work.  Because I always enjoy knowing what I’m buying, I figured I’d give them a try.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Since they are in my local shop, I wasn’t expecting the highest quality, but we liked just about everything we tried.  The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and clear if a touch too grassy.  We both agreed that the Zinfandel was divine, and I liked the light yet flavorful Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir as well as the Grenache, notable because I’m usually not a Grenache fan.  However, the bottle we went home with was the Riesling which was light yet sweet with a hint of bubbles.  I cannot tell you how exciting it was to get to try a Riesling.  Riesling is probably my favorite varietal, but it just doesn’t grow very well around here, so very few wineries have one, and not only getting to try one but having it be good enough to buy made me almost giddy.

Perhaps the most pleasant part of our wine tasting experience was how reasonably priced the wines were.  Our Riesling was a mere $16, and most of the wines cost around $20 which is low for this region and quality. I would absolutely consider buying several of them at World Market, and with a sale, I could even afford it.

Our pourer was pretty cool too.  She was very nice, easy to chat with, let us try quite a few wines, and let us do both of our tastings free even though we only bought one bottle.  I would definitely go back.

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Categories: Northern California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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